Library / Personal Development | Human Psychology

Date of review: November 2023
Book author: David Ogilvy
Вook published: 2011

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

Ogilvy lessons on how to be successful in business, advertising, selling and more that are still relevant today
David Ogilvy wrote this iconic book in 1963, fourteen years after launching his successful advertising agency. He also had to make several corrections as the world has changed since that time, but even now Ogilvy’s ideas are still fresh and easy to use.
Fourteen years before writing these Confessions, I had gone to New York and started an advertising agency. Americans thought I was crazy. What could a Scotsman know about advertising? My agency was an immediate and meteoric success.
— David Ogilvy
Ogilvy came from a privileged background, he failed at university and had to work his way as a salesman, as a market researcher, and as a chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris.

'There were thirty-seven chefs in our brigade. We worked like dervishes 63 hours a week - there were no trade union. From morning to night we sweated and shouted and cursed and cooked. Every man jack was inspired by one ambition: to cook better than any chef has ever cooked before.’

Ogilvy shows how his experience in the kitchen shaped his rules for running his business and he provides two lists on who to hire as staff and who to hire as customers. 'Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine'. Similar to Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett on hiring people with integrity.

It is an insightful book for copywriters. It doesn’t go into too many details, templates, formulas or any magical earn six figures. Ogilvy teaches the reader The Magic Lantern — his method that refers to the power of advertising to captivate and persuade audiences, the same as a magic lantern projects images onto a screen. For Ogilvy the magic Lantern means the ability of advertising to illuminate products or ideas in a compelling way. It’s a fascinating framework that is still relevant. One of those rare examples can be found here.

Additionally, he teaches How to Write Potent Copy, which includes several tips on how to write your headline and body copy most effectively based on research as well as his own experience.

Some takeaways from the book

The Power Of Written Goals
When he started his business back in 1948 he made a list of the five clients he wanted most: ‘General foods, Bristol-Myers, Campbell Soup Company, Lever Brothers, and Shell’. He got all five of them as clients and at this time he just relocated to the USA from England with no connection, network and he was a novice in the advertising business.
The Power Of Purpose
“ Why did I write it? first, to attract new clients to my agency. Second to condition the market for a public offering of our shares. Third, to make myself better known in the business world. It achieved all three of these purposes. Ogilvy’s book has sold more than one million copies helped him to attract new clients to his advertising agency, sell shares in his company, and make him better known in the business world. His experience can only be inspirational to anyone who wants to run their business better.
How to Get Clients
His client attraction strategies are still relevant today, here are a few: “ I followed Edward Bernays (He is the father of propaganda) advice to make no more than two speeches a year”. At that time Ogilvy highlights the importance of speaking in public. Every entrepreneur should embrace every opportunity to speak to people virtually or physically: webinars, social media platforms, or physical seminars. The truth is you never know who is listening or who is listening knows.

Notable quotes

  • Once a salesman, always a salesman.
  • If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.
  • The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.
  • In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.
With no doubt, David Ogilvy was one of the pioneers of modern advertising. Throughout the past 70 years, his theories, convictions, and methods have influenced some of the most recognizable campaigns.
Thank you for reading this book review.

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